Vale David Abbott (1938 – 2014)
The world advertising industry will be saddened to hear of the death of David Abbott, arguably the greatest British copywriter of all time, who passed away yesterday aged 75.
Droga5 Australia creative chairman David Nobay and head of art Daryl Corps created the above homage to Abbott’s famous poster for The Economist as the most fitting tribute they could think of. Corps worked at Abbott Mead Vickers, while Nobay ran Anthem in London, part of AMV Group, for a spell and had the honor of working under the great man for a week on a pitch.
Abbott started as a copywriter at Mather & Crowther and then at DDB London. In 1966, he was sent to their New York office, then returned to London as a director.
In 1971, he founded French Gold Abbott. In 1978, he founded Abbott Mead Vickers (AMV), and went on to create famous advertising campaigns for clients including Volvo, Sainsbury’s, Ikea, Chivas Regal, The Economist, Yellow Pages, and the RSPCA.
In 1991, BBDO acquired a stake in AMV and appended their name.
Abbott was awarded the D&AD President’s Award in 1986 and The One Club for Art and Copy inducted Abbott into its Creative Hall of Fame in 2001.
His first novel, The Upright Piano Player, was published in 2010 by MacLehose Press.
One of the best compliments paid to Abbott came from Tony Brignull, another great British copywriter, when Abbott won the 1986 D&AD President’s Award: “He and John Webster, who won the award in 1982, are the undisputed masters of British creative advertising of our lifetimes.
“There are a few of us writers around who think of ourselves as the sons of Bill Bernbach. I have a feeling David is the only one who’d pass a blood test.”
Abbott visited Australia in 1987 as a special guest of the AWARD Awards and appeared on the cover of Campaign Brief in October that year.
1. Put yourself into your work. Use your life to animate your copy. If something moves you, chances are, it will touch someone else too.
2. Think visually. Ask someone to describe a spiral staircase and they’ll use their hands as well as words. Sometimes the best copy is no copy.
3. If you believe that facts persuade (as I do), you’d better learn how to write a list so that it doesn’t read like a list.
4. Confession is good for the soul and for copy too. Bill Bernbach used to say “a small admission gains a large acceptance.”
5. Don’t be boring.
Because you showed that wit and intelligence, both could have a role in commerce. Because you proved that every brand could have a voice of its own. Because you believed awards were merely a side effect and never the objective. Because you made advertising a worthy profession. Because you will never be replaced. Because in 1980,i read every word of your Volvo ad with a student hitchhiker and I knew at 16,exactly what I wanted to do. Rest in peace Mr Abbott. As long as good taste and immpecable manners never go out of style, your work will live on.
David Abbott is the only ad man I’ve ever looked up to. For a whole generation of writers from India he is a God whose words we read, whose style we imitate, whose acumen we admire, whose gentle wit we smile at, and whose humanity we try to live every day. In many ways none of that will change. David Abbott has joined the immortals.
David Abbott was without doubt Britain’s greatest advertising copywriter. The wit and simplicity of his copy belied the fantastically conceptual mind behind it. I had the pleasure of knowing him and occasionally collaborating with him over the years. He was exactly like the copy he wrote, warm, honest and believable.
I interviewed him some years ago and rereading the piece this morning I think it paints a pretty good picture of a great advertising legend. Here it is. http://mikedempsey.typepad.com/graphic_journey_blog/2008/11/man-of-letters.html
I once only wrote with a blue Artline fineliner, because I read that he did.
So clever. Such a gentleman. May he rest in peace.
Very sad,David Abbott was one of the advertising Greats.
A Great writer,a Great thinker and above all a Great person.RIP David.
I visited him at his office in 1982. He looked at my book and reel, leaned back in his chair and said “There’s some lively work in there”. It’s a mark of the gentleman he was that he didn’t say it was shit.
when i started producing commercials in london with brian duffy, our first commercial was for david abbott. As a friend of duffy’s,david abbott offered to write an ad for our company. i’ll never forget receiving the ad with a note from david asking if the ad was ok. lovely,humble man.
A true inspiration to all creatives. Very sad to hear.
My God and Gov’nor for thirty years. Totally devastated.
His work is his legacy given to us. A true talent and a gentleman.
As a former art director, turned copywriter, David Abbott made the art of writing great ads seem so simple. Of course, as we all know, nothing is further from the truth. I was an art director, and had just been hired by Doyle, Dane & Bernbach not long after they opened an office in London. The year was 1964.
Not long after I joined, I was given the opportunity to work with David.
And, looking back, after all this time, he made it appear to be so easy. David not only wrote the lines, he did the layouts, too! and when I came up with a line to a visual he drew, he laughed, and told me it was not bad.
David Abbott was, without question, a great copywriter, and I consider myself very fortunate to have been his art director, for however short a time it was.